RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Virginia is implementing a “modified stay-at-home order” or curfew as part of the new coronavirus restrictions announced by Gov. Ralph Northam in a press conference Thursday.
The “modified stay-at-home order” will be from midnight to 5 a.m. every day starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday. That will exclude those going to work and other essential travel (buying food, getting medical attention, etc.)
Virginia’s limit on gatherings will decrease beginning Monday to 10 from 25, and masks will be required outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible. Gov. Northam said he encourages people to wear masks indoors at private workplaces, or around people not in your immediate family, but said he can’t enforce that.
“The virus, we know, spreads when people are around each other in groups,” said Northam. “When groups are smaller, it spreads less. That’s one more reason why it’s important to stay home. If you don’t need to be out, we ask you to stay home.”
Gatherings include parties, celebrations and other social events, outdoors and indoors. The rule doesn’t apply to places of work, religious services and schools.
Northam says the measures will be temporary, and stay in place through January.
“This is not about getting people in trouble, this is about doing the right thing,” Northam said.
Northam said the gathering limits won’t restrict restaurants. Northam said he thinks Virginia restaurant restrictions are adequate. Those include no bar seating, distancing between tables and other measures that essentially bring capacity down to 50% or below. New measures put in place before Thanksgiving cut off alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and closed restaurants at midnight.
Northam says 181 enforcement actions have been taken at businesses across the state since the restrictions have gone into place. He said enforcement would be stepped up again.
“I hear people talk about their rights and I’m all about rights, but I think we need to talk about responsibility and I think all of us right now have a responsibility to look out for fellow mankind, our neighbors, our family, our friends,” said Northam.
Northam is also calling on faith leaders across the state to set a good example, especially during the holiday season.
“You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers… worship with a mask is still worship, worship outside or online is still worship,” Northam said, adding that many cases have been linked to churches in which people gather indoors without masks, though he thanked many that are following the rules.
For recreational sports, Northam is setting a 25-person-per-field limit for indoor sports and two guests per player for outdoor sports. He’s encouraging schools to set up streams online and move sports outside if possible.
The announcement from Northam comes as Virginia reported 4,398 new cases on Wednesday, a record high for daily cases. Hospitalizations are at an all-time high record and deaths are trending up.
A video from an ICU worker in Southwest Virginia named Emily was shown at the briefing, in which she pleaded for others to be safe and follow guidelines.
“We’re losing more than we keep… I’ve put an ungodly amount of people in body bags.”
Northam said, “The nurses and doctors are literally exhausted. They’ve been working around the clock for months. Even worse, many of them are now dealing with COVID at home. They live with someone who gets it or they get it themselves. That takes them out of the work rotation and it makes the pressure on other workers even worse.”
These latest restrictions brought mixed opinions – some people think the measures might help while others aren’t quite sure.
With a 10 person limit on gatherings, many in Hampton roads are reevaluating their holiday plans.
“It’s really affecting the amount of family I can have over at my house and over at my grandma’s house where we traditionally gather so we don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Travis Thompson, a Virginia Beach resident.
Other people we spoke were curious as to the reasoning behind the curfew and the outdoor mask requirement.
“That may have made more sense in terms of things like beach gatherings and stuff like that but I don’t imagine we’re going to be seeing huge crowds outdoors anyhow,” one woman said. “I think we’re all kind of doing our part to keep things small.”
10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox asked Northam about the recent spike in cases while the governor was in Hampton Roads Wednesday to promote the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
Northam also said he was concerned about large gatherings continuing to persist.
“We know people gather in large groups and we know that is a problem, and we will take some measures to mitigate those numbers.”
President-elect Joe Biden said he wants Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president. When asked if Northam believes Virginians should be required to wear face coverings for the next hundred days, he said that would be a good idea. “For our president-elect to say that everybody needs to wear a mask for 100 days, I support that and we’ll certainly follow that in Virginia.”
Northam says there’s light at the end of the dark COVID-19 tunnel: vaccinations and possible FDA approval expected this week.
“We are anxiously awaiting their recommendations and we could see this vaccination being given to our public Monday or Tuesday so we are excited by that,” Northam said.